updated 12:00 am EST, Mon January 4, 2010
Popcorn Hour sequel handles 1080p
Syabas preluded CES today with its most ambitious media hub to date. The Popbox replaces the Popcorn Hour as the flagship media hub and revolves around a major, much more polished interface overhaul designed by Moxie's inventor and former Microsoft executive Dewey Reid. In addition to showing visual thumbnails of virtually everything and universal search, the interface has applets known as Infopops that show weather, Twitter feeds and other data whenever the viewer pauses what's playing. As with the previously available Popapps, new Infopops can be added over time.
The Popapps themselves are much more advanced. They can now store their content locally and use more complex code such as Flash, Java or Qt. The approach both allows for purely local content like games but also to tap into services that have previously been off-limits, such as Netflix, and can work with providers that would normally insist on between-video ads and other content besides the main feature. Much of the content available for the Popbox on launch carries over from the Popcorn Hour and includes selected ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN and NBC content, major podcasters such as Revision3 and Next New Networks, and non-video services like Facebook, Shoutcast MP3 stations and Twitter.
The changes are dramatic enough that the Popcorn Hour could be considered a "beta" for what the Popbox has become, the company tells Electronista.
Video processing has also been given a lift and now supports 1080p video up to a 100Mbps bitrate. As with the Popcorn Hour, the sheer variety of formats is the selling point and includes all common MPEG formats, H.264, VC-1, WMV and XviD; it can not only handle common containers for Internet video like Matroska (MKV) but also multiple subtitle formats, including Microsoft's own. On a local network, the Popbox can stream content from an iTunes computer or media server using Apple's Bonjour and can also recognize content delivered by DLNA and UPnP sources.
Hardware is kept simple and uses just Ethernet for networking and component and HDMI for video input; RCA and SPDIF are available for audio. While there's no built-in storage for the Popbox itself, it has two USB ports to take external hard drives and an SD card slot. Syabas also promises a quiet device that consumes less than 15W of power and doesn't require a fan.
Shipments to the US should start in March and, because of the lightweight design, should keep the price down to just $129.